IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa Football jumps back into Big Ten play this week with a Friday night contest at Maryland. The No. 5 Hawkeyes will be traveling to College Park for just the second time in program history and the first time since 2014.
An improved Terrapin outfit awaits them. Like Iowa, it stands at 4-0 with both teams owning a home victory against Kent State.
The Hawkeyes knocked off the MAC school two weeks ago, 30-7. Maryland recorded a 37-16 triumph last Saturday.
The Terrapins are much improved on defense. They rank eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 14.25 points per game. Iowa yields just 11.0 PPG, third best in the country.
Maryland gets after the quarterback. It ranks sixth in the nation with 16 sacks. Sam Okuayinonu leads the way with four sacks.
"They're a good unit," Hawkeye center Tyler Linderbaum said. "Now we're getting into Big Ten play, so you've got bigger guys coming at you. They're bigger, stronger guys, and we're going to be ready.
"The emphasis this week is just getting off the ball, coming at them and attacking them. I think we're practicing well and we just have to carry that over to the game."
The pressure has helped the Terrapin secondary cash in. Cornerback Jakorian Bennett and Nick Cross, a safety, share the distinction with Iowa's Matt Hankins and Riley Moss as the only Big Ten teammates this season with multiple interceptions. All four have two picks apiece.
Offensively, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa engineers a big-play attack. It's not looking to dink and dunk its way down the field. It swings for the home run.
"They got some good receivers, good athletes. They've got a good athlete at quarterback, too," Hawkeye safety Jack Koerner said. "So, it's all about just limiting the big plays. That's really been our bread and butter ever since this staff got here. So, that's definitely what we're focusing on this week."
Maryland receiver Dontay Demus Jr. leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the country with 446 receiving yards. He has caught a pass in 26 straight games, dating back to October 27, 2018, and is third in the conference in both receptions per game (six) and touchdowns (three).
Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua Tagovailoa, spreads the ball around. Though he's not a guy who runs a lot, he uses his legs well in keeping plays alive.
"I'd say just being disciplined with our gaps and our eyes," Jack Campbell said of containing the Terrapin signal caller. "It's going to be a challenge, but if you stay sound with the fundamentals, everything will work out."
Running back Tayon Fleet-Davis helps keep defenses opposing Maryland honest. He averages 7.1 yards per carry and his 14 catches rank third on the team.
"They like to spread it out and get guys out on the perimeter," Koerner said. "They've got good athletes. They've got good speed. So that's something we definitely are preparing for. It's all about just leveraging the ball, guys setting hard edges and not letting them use their speed and run unchecked."
Iowa is familiar with preparing on a shorter week having played Black Friday games against Nebraska for the last decade. The Hawkeyes also have experience playing on a Friday night at Minnesota last season. The difference in this contest is the length of travel.
"I like playing on the road because I like going out there and beating their team and taking the air out of the crowd," Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said. "It's just a great feeling to know that you put in the work to go over there and make the fans be quiet; and all the trash talking between the coaches and players, it's just a good feeling to take the air out of the stadium."
TV ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman on FS1.
SERIES: Iowa leads the all-time series, 2-1. The home team has won all three games in the series. The Terps defeated the Hawkeyes, 38-31, at Maryland in the first meeting in 2014.
Iowa evened the series with a 31-15 victory at Kinnick Stadium in 2015 and won the mostrecent meeting, 23-0, in Iowa City in 2018.
BETTING LINES: The game opened with Iowa as a 3.0-point favorite at Vegas Insiders (VI) on Sunday. That number remained the same in the VI consensus on Monday. The total was at 46.0, down from a 46.5 open.
-Maryland is 4-1 Against The Spread in its last 5 home games.
-Terrapins are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
-Hawkeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.
-Iowa is 6-1-1 ATS in its last 8 conference games.
MARYLAND PLAYERS TO WATCH
-Taulia Tagovailoa, QB – The leader in the clubhouse right now for first-team all-Big Ten honors at his position, Tua's younger brother has completed 75.5 percent of his passes for a conference-best 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns against just one interception.
–Tayon Fleet-Davis, RB – A threat as a rusher and receiver, the redshirt senior and Maryland native has run for 311 yards (7.1 per carry) and four touchdowns. He's caught 14 passes for 102 yards and a score.
-Nick Cross, S – The DeMatha Catholic product would fit well into the Iowa secondary as a ball hawk. Cross has three pass breakups and two picks so far in 2021. He also has 14 solo tackles and a forced fumble.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Maryland: Don't turn the ball over. Iowa's defense has turned nine turnovers into 51 points so far.
Iowa: Play assignment football, particularly on defense. The Terrapins cash in on big plays when opponents lack discipline.
-Maryland ranks fifth in the country and leads the Big Ten with 16 sacks through four games, an average of four per game. The Terps have had at least two sacks in each game this season and have tallied 11 over the last two weeks with six against Illinois (9/17) and five against Kent State (9/25).
-Maryland WR Dontay Demus Jr., who leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the country with 446 receiving yards, has caught a pass in 26 straight games, dating back to October 27, 2018, tied for the 11th-longest streak in the country and fourth-longest in the Big Ten.
-Terps CB Jakorian Bennett CB leads all Power Five defenders with eight total pass breakups this season (two per game), tallying six pass breakups and two interceptions. Bennett has at least one PBU in all four games this season and caught an interception in each of the first two games.
-Maryland is allowing only 14.2 points per game, the eighth-fewest points allowed per game in the country. The Terps have kept all four opponents to under 24 points scored and three of four opponents to under 17 points.
-The Terrapin offensive line was named the Pro Football Focus Offensive Line of the Week for their performance against Kent State (9/25), earning a 96.7 pass-block grade. The offensive line only allowed one sack and allowed QB Taulia Tagovailoa to throw for 384 yards, the 11th-most ever in a single game by a Terp. Maryland totaled 526 yards of offense (384 passing, 142 rushing) and averaged 7.6 yards per play in the win.
-Iowa has won its last 10 games. The Hawkeyes have outscored their last 10 opponents, 329-127, averaging 32.9 points per game offensively and allowing 12.7 ppg during the winning streak.
-Iowa has won seven straight Big Ten games. It is the fifth time in the last 30 years Iowa has won seven straight conference games (2020-21, 2015, 2008, 2004, 1991). Iowa won eight straight conference games in 2015 and 2008, and seven straight in 2004 and 1991.
-Iowa leads the Big Ten and ties for No. 10 in the country with six interceptions. Iowa has 70 interception since 2017, more than any team in the country. Iowa has scored points on each takeaway, turning nine turnovers into 51 points in 2021. The Hawkeye defense has scored 20 points (3 TDs and 1 safety).
-Iowa has turned all nine turnovers into 51 points in 2021, including three defensive scores. DB Riley Moss leads the country with two interceptions returned for touchdowns (30, 55), both in Week 1. LB Jack Campbell scoop and scored on a fumble recovery Week 2 at Iowa State. Iowa’s defense also created a safety in the win over Kent State.
-Hawkeye QB Spencer Petras is 10-2 as Iowa’s starting quarterback. His .833 winning percentage is second all-time among Iowa quarterbacks with at least 10 starts. Brad Banks is No. 1 (11-2, .846). Petras’s 30.8 points per game (2020-21) is the highest average by a Hawkeye starting quarterback since Banks (36.6, 2002).
Maryland – Larry David
Iowa - Leon Festinger
HOWE I SEE IT: No doubt it's a tricky spot for the Hawkeyes. They're traveling halfway across the country for an unusual Friday night game against a good team looking for a signature win. On top of that, Iowa must avoid looking ahead to next week's showdown with No. 4 Penn State at Kinnick Stadium.
I'd anticipate plenty of national analysts calling for the upset after the Hawkeyes struggled with Colorado State a week ago. All of the above can work in their favor if they use it as motivation and can stay focused.
I think Iowa is the better football team here. If it plays well, it will win. If it doesn't, the Terrapins certainly are capable of pulling off the upset.
It's really that simple. If the Hawkeyes are conference contenders, they remain unbeaten after this one. I think they are and they do.
PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Maryland 16
Rob Howe is in his 25th year covering University of Iowa Athletics. He's worked for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Hawkeye Nation, Hawk Fanatic, Hawkeye Insider and more. Please follow @RobHoweHN on Twitter.